About Cervical Cancer
Cervical cancer is cancer of the uterine cervix, the portion of the uterus attached to the top of the vagina. In its earliest stages cervical cancer is easily treatable and curable; therefore, annual pap smears for cervical cancer screening are very important. Human papilloma virus (HPV) has been shown to be the causative agent of most cervical cancers.
Women with cervical cancer first develop abnormal cell growth on the cervix known as dysplasia, which can often be detected on a pap smear screening. In some instances, especially in younger women, dysplasia may resolve itself without any physician intervention. In other cases, the dysplasia can be treated, thereby preventing the development of a cancer.
The following risk factors may make a woman more prone to developing cervical cancer:
- Women who had sexual intercourse at a very young age
- Women with multiple sexual partners or women whose partners have multiple sexual partners
- Women who do not get regular pap smears who may have pre cancerous cells
- Women who are infected with the human papilloma virus (HPV)
Physical symptoms of cervical cancer may include persistent vaginal discharge and abnormal vaginal bleeding. Women with cervical cancer may not experience any symptoms however, so it is important to talk to your doctor about your risk factors and how often you should have a pap smear for cervical cancer screening.
Cervical Cancer Screening & Diagnosis
A pap smear can help identify the possibility of cervical cancer but it does not provide a definitive diagnosis. If a woman has an abnormal pap smear, she may undergo a colposcopy, which allows the physician to take a magnified look at the cervix to better determine if cervical pre-cancerous or cancerous cells are present. A biopsy of the cervix may be necessary.
If a diagnosis of cervical cancer is made, a variety of tests, which may include a cystoscopy and a colonoscopy to determine if the cancer has spread to the bladder or rectum, will be ordered. These tests, together with the results of the original tumor biopsy help your physician determine the severity or stage of the cancer, including whether it has spread to other areas of the body. Each cancer type has its own classification system.
NorthShore University HealthSystem physicians and the team at the Kellogg Cancer Center work collaboratively and are dedicated to putting patients and families at the center of a healthcare experience that delivers compassionate, quality care.
Every week, our multidisciplinary team meets to discuss each patient’s case in detail and to design a personalized treatment plan. Your team may include your medical oncologist, surgeon, radiation oncologist, genetics counselor, pathologist, nutritionist, interventional radiologist, and researchers focused on you. This meeting of the minds provides each patient with an individualized care plant to create the path for the most optimal outcome. Our approach emphasizes open communication, collaborating with each other personally and through one of the most advanced electronic medical records systems in the country.